The Future


The future is near.

Two Frenchmen have started up a company called Fruition Sciences that uses a sap sensor to monitor the flow of water in grapevines. Dozens of vineyards around the world are currently using these sensors with the majority being deployed in Napa valley California.

These crude looking sensors hide their true sophistication.  This sap-sensing device consists of a 3-inch long sleeve that wraps around the vine, a heating element at one end of the sleeve and a thermometer at each end of the sleeve. Heat is applied to the vine and the dissipation of heat from one end of the sleeve to the other is measured to determine how much water is flowing through the vine. This data is transmitted to a central server where it is correlated with data collected from an on site weather station as well as seasonal data, soil moisture levels and soil composition.  The farmer can then use this information to determine when and how much water to apply to the vines as well as the best time to harvest the grapes.

The main justification for using these sensors is to improve the quality of the grapes. Better grapes make better wine. But the biggest benefit is a significant reduction in water usage. Farmers are estimating that water consumption in their vineyards has been reduced by more that 50%. When this technology reaches other sectors of agriculture the water savings will be enormous. No small achievement in this age of climate change.

So what has this got to do with bonsai?

Sap-sensors similar to the one described would offer a huge benefit to bonsai enthusiasts by helping them monitor and improve the overall health of their trees. As this technology progresses expect to find sensors that can monitor the nutritional needs of the tree to determine when and how much fertilizer to apply.

Currently these sensors and the complete monitoring systems are more expensive than most bonsai they could be used on. But we all know how quickly prices drop as technology improves and reaches a mass market. Take for example a VHS camcorder I purchased in 1990. This camcorder was the size of a boom box that I mounted on my shoulder. It took grainy pictures and cost a whopping $1500. This camcorder was obsolete in a few years followed by a palm sized Hi-8 camcorder, which was quickly obsolesced and replaced by a digital camcorder. Today we can record high definition video on our smart phones with instant uploads to the Internet that can be shared with the world.

 

I envision one day soon when my communications device wakes me from my slumber with soothing music followed by my virtual personal assistant reporting the weather and traffic and reminding me to make reservations for our wedding anniversary. My PA would then say “ Japanese maple #3 does not need water today because it will rain tomorrow, however a tissue sample is needed to determine the nutrient requirements for tomorrows scheduled feeding. Have a great day Greg”.

 

 

 

Have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

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